Wolfgang Doeblin

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Wolfgang Doeblin
WolfgangDöblin 1938 MFO9417.jpg
Born(1915-03-17)17 March 1915
Died21 June 1940(1940-06-21) (aged 25)
Alma materUniversité de Paris
Known forDoeblin's condition for Markov processes, Doeblin's central limit theorem
Scientific career
ThesisSur les propriétés asymptotiques de mouvements régis par certains types de chaînes simples (1938)
Doctoral advisorPaul Lévy
Maurice René Fréchet

Wolfgang Doeblin, known in France as Vincent Doblin (17 March 1915 – 21 June 1940), was a French-German mathematician.


A native of Berlin, Wolfgang was the son of the Jewish-German novelist and physician, Alfred Döblin, and Erna Reiss. His family escaped from Nazi Germany to France where he became a French citizen. Studying probability theory at the Université de Paris under Fréchet, he quickly made a name for himself as a gifted theorist. He received his doctorate at age 23. Drafted in November 1938, after refusing to be exempted from military service, he was a soldier in the French army when World War II broke out in 1939, and was quartered at Givet, in the Ardennes, as a telephone operator. There, he wrote down his latest work on the Chapman–Kolmogorov equation, and sent this as a "pli cacheté" (sealed envelope) to the French Academy of Sciences. His company, sent to the sector of the Saare on the ligne Maginot in April 1940, was caught in the German attack in the Ardennes in May, withdrew to the Vosges, and capitulated on 22 June 1940. On 21 June, Doeblin shot himself in Housseras (a small village near Epinal), when German troops came within sight. In his last moments, he burned his mathematical notes.

The sealed envelope was opened in 2000,[1] revealing that Doeblin had obtained major results on the Chapman-Kolmogorov equation and the theory of diffusion processes.[2]

His life was the subject of a 2007 movie by Agnes Handwerk and Harrie Willems, A Mathematician Rediscovered.[3]

When he became a French citizen in 1938, he chose the official name of Vincent Doblin. However, he later chose to sign his papers as Wolfgang Doeblin and it is under this name that all his mathematical papers and professional letters were published. [4]


  1. ^ Wolfgang Doeblin "Sur l'équation de Kolmogoroff", Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, 331 (2000).
  2. ^ Bru, B. and Yor, M. (2000) Comments on the life and mathematical legacy of Wolfgang Doeblin, Finance and Stochastics, Volume 6, 3–47.
  3. ^ Wolfgang Doeblin — Histoire des mathématiques Journals, Books & Online Media | Springer
  4. ^ Mazliak, L.: On the exchanges between W. Doeblin and B. Hostinský Rev. Hist. Math. 13, no. 1 (2007)


  • O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Wolfgang Doeblin", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
  • Wolfgang Doeblin at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • Bru, Bernard; Yor, Marc (January 2002), "Comments on the life and mathematical legacy of Wolfgang Doeblin", Finance and Stochastics, Berlin / Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 6 (1): 3–47, doi:10.1007/s780-002-8399-0, MR 1885582
  • Bernard Bru, Marc Yor: La vie de W. Doeblin, Lettre de l'Académie des sciences, no. 2, 2001
  • Marc Petit: Die verlorene Gleichung. Auf der Suche nach Wolfgang und Alfred Döblin ("L'équation de Kolmogoroff"). Eichborn, Frankfurt/M. 2005, ISBN 3-8218-5749-8
  • Ellinghaus, Jürgen / Ferry, Hubert: La lettre scellée du soldat Doblin / Der versiegelte Brief des Soldaten Döblin, TV documentary, 2006, ARTE/RBB [1]. VoD (French or German version): [2].
  • Ellinghaus, Jürgen / Gardini, Aldo: Die Irrfahrt des Soldaten Döblin, audiobook, ed. Stiftung Radio Basel, Christoph Merian Verlag, Basel, 2007.

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